Do you need a COVID-19 booster? Depends on who you ask

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RALEIGH, N.C (WNCN) – Pfizer says it will likely ask the FDA for permission to give out third doses, or booster shots, of it’s COVID-19 vaccine next month.

The company presented new data Wednesday showing increased protection with an extra dose six months later.

Right now, Pfizer says that booster will be the same formula as the current doses. The company said it was planning trials for a new formula to combat the delta variant at a later point.

However, there are mixed opinions on when or if a booster or extra dose is needed.

Dr. David Montefiori studies vaccines at Duke Health. He says we’re likely going to need booster shots a some point.

“The question of when to boost and what to boost with is still an open question,” Montefiori said.

Pfizer says that time is six months after your second dose. Its studies found protection from the delta variant in people 18 to 55 was five times greater after a third dose. People ages 65 to 85 saw 11 times greater protection after a third dose, according to Pfizer.

The findings and raw data have not been reviewed by anyone outside the company yet.

“I believe boosting will be necessary. It is very likely going to strengthen the immune response against the variants,” Montefiori said.

But the CDC and FDA have both said we don’t have enough information to prove we need boosters right now. Montefiori said that’s an opinion that could change.

“If there is an increase in breakthrough infections that lead to more severe diseases, that’s going to be a trigger to say okay now is the time,” he said.

Do I need a booster for the Moderna or Johnson and Johnson vaccines?

Montefiori added that there are ongoing studies to determine if vaccine brands could be mixed and matched.

“For a matter of convenience and in terms of supply of vaccines, it’s going to be important to be able to not have to get boosted necessarily by the same vaccine,” he explained.

Neither Moderna nor Johnson and Johnson have released information about possible boosters for their shot. So far, all three vaccines are still largely protecting breakthrough patients from severe illness. Protecting from severe illness is what the vaccines were intended to do, rather than protecting from infection all together.

“Hopefully the virus will not be able to evolve to completely evade the vaccines. But it’s an open question that’s being studied extensively right now,” Montefiori said.

A meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices discussed a potential third dose for Moderna and Pfizer recipients last week. Data presented showed 44 percent of hospitalized breakthrough cases are immunocompromised people. Studies are finding 33-50 percent of immunocompromised people who didn’t build up protection after their second dose did get protection after a third dose.

There’s no crystal ball in science so there’s no telling how far this virus will evolve. However, the more people are unvaccinated, the more room there is to mutate.

What’s safe to do amid the delta variant?

If you’ve been fully vaccinated CDC says:

  • You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  • Wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
  • You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. You should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive.

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